Excerpts from the Book,
GODS MERCY IN HIS WORKS,
written by Dr. Fr. Michael Sopocko
Mens thoughts of God are vague and
ill-defined, for "no man hath seen
God at any time" (John I: 18).
(...) If we had never seen the sun, and had formed our only idea of
it from such light
as there is on a dull day, we should never have a true picture of the
source of daylight.
Or, if we had never seen white light, but knew light only through the
seven colors of
the rainbow, we should never know what whiteness was. In the same way,
we cannot form an adequate concept of the Being of God: the most we
can do is to see something of His perfections, revealed to us as they
are, in created things, in a state of multiplicity and diffusion, whereas
in God they exist in absolute unity. God, as the most perfect Being,
is a pure and simple Spirit, made up of no parts.
(...) It is impossible to sound the depths
of all the perfections found in the Being of God: they are many, and
far surpass our knowledge. (...) Among all these perfections Our Lord
singles out one as the fountainhead from which flows all that comes
to us in life, and in which God desires to be praised for all eternity.
This perfection is the Mercy of God. "Be
ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful" (Luke 6
The Mercy of God is the perfection of His
activity, stooping over all beings that lie beneath Him, to raise them
from their misery and to supply what they lack: it is His Will of doing
good to all in need, who cannot themselves meet those needs. A single
act of mercy is pity, but the unchanging state of pity is mercy. (...)
Gods relation to created things is shown in His supplying their
needs and distributing among them greater and lesser perfections. This
bestowal of perfections, considered in itself, quite irrespective of
circumstance, is an act of Gods goodness, which gives to each
as He wills.
What we see of the total disinterestedness
of God in thus scattering His gifts, we attribute to His liberality.
The watchful care of God that, with the help of all the good things
He has given us, we should reach our goal, we call His providence. The
bestowal of perfections, in accordance with a prearranged plan and order,
is a work of justice. And finally, the bestowal of perfections on His
creatures to save them from their wretchedness and to supply their wants,
is the work of Mercy.
A creatures lack is not always its
misfortune, for to each belongs only that which God has ordained and
decreed for it. It is no misfortune for a sheep, for instance, to have
no reason; nor is it a disaster for a man to have no wings. But the
lack of reason in man, or wings in a bird, would be a terrible misfortune.
Whatever God does for created things, He does in accordance with a carefully
devised and established order, determined by divine justice. But as
this order was freely assumed and was not imposed upon God by anyone,
the fact that one order and not another was established shows us unmistakably
that it is the work also of Mercy.
So, when we come to penetrate the first causes,
the motives, of Gods activity, we see Mercy as the mainspring
of every outward act. For if anything is due to a creature, it is only
on the grounds of some previous decision. But as we cannot retreat like
this into infinity, we must pause here, at what depends solely on the
will of God, or the Mercy
of God. In each act of God, we can see, according to how we look at
it, the perfections
of God mentioned above.
The preservation of Moses, for instance,
hidden in his basket on the waters of the Nile, may be seen, when stripped
of all its circumstances, as due to the goodness of God. But if we consider
the disinterestedness shown by God in this preservation, which to Him
was not necessary, and which the infant himself had done nothing to
merit-we see it as the work of Gods liberality. Again, when we
reflect-that God had resolved, through Moses, to lead the Israelites
out of Egypt, we may look upon this preservation as an act of Gods
justice. The watchful care over the child thus left exposed to so many
dangers by the river, we attribute to the providence of God. And, finally,
the rescue of the child from suffering, abandonment and want; the showering
on him of gifts-good conditions for life, growth, upbringing, education-all
this was the work of the Mercy of God.
And as, at every turn in the example just
quoted, we are struck by the childs helplessness and many needs,
we may say that the goodness of God is Mercy, which creates and gives;
the liberality of God-is Mercy, which pours out gifts in abundance,
without looking to any merit; the providence of God-is Mercy, which
watches over us; the justice of God-is Mercy, which rewards us above
our deserts, and punishes us less than our sins merit; and lastly, that
the love of God-is Mercy, which takes pity on human misery and draws
us to Himself. In other words, the Mercy of God is the mainspring of
Gods external activity: the source of each act of the Creator.
In every Book of the Old and New Testaments,
the Mercy of God is mentioned repeatedly, but most often, and most eloquently,
in the Book of Psalms. In the total number of 150 Psalms there are 55
Psalms especially praising this divine perfection, and in Psalm 135
each verse repeats as its refrain, "for
his mercy endureth for ever".
In the Bible as a whole there are over four
hundred passages in which the Mercy of God is given direct praise; in
the Book of Psalms, there are a hundred and thirty; and in innumerable
other texts His Mercy is hymned indirectly. The Psalmist, in speaking
of Gods Mercy, is not content with the word " merciful ",
but adds a whole row of synonyms, as though anxious to strengthen our
conviction of the boundless Mercy
(...) Can anyone fail to be struck by the
number of times the Bible speaks of Gods Mercy? Does one not wonder
why the inspired writer should do so? We see here Gods desire
to give men His Mercy, to awaken their trust. God wants to teach us
of His inner life, His relation to created things, and especially to
people. God desires
to be praised by us in His Mercy, that we may imitate Him in our acts.
(Vol. I, p. 5-16 )
DEVOTION TO THE
Our Lords love for us is both divine
and human, for He possesses both a divine and
a human nature and will. Hence we may regard the Saviors Most
Sacred Heart as the symbol of His threefold love for us-divine love,
spiritual human love and sensitive human love. Yet this Heart is not
a formal image or sign of His love, but only its trace (...). For-as
Pius XII says in his encyclical "Hauriets aquas" of May 15,
1956-no created image could represent the reality of this infinite,
In the devotion to
the Sacred Heart of Jesus, then, we honor above all Our Lords
human love for mankind, and also His divine love for us, which, being
love for the wretched, is really Divine Mercy. So, in this devotion,
it is only the faint outline of Gods Mercy that we honor, for
we see it there only, as it were, in bud (...). In the devotion to the
Divine Mercy, a more appropriate material object is the blood and water
which flowed from the Saviors side on the cross. These are a symbol
of the Church, brought forth from the side of the dead Savior on the
cross (...), This blood and water flow ceaselessly in the Church as
graces cleansing the soul (in the sacraments of baptism and penance),
and as graces giving life (in the Sacrament of the Altar). Their Author
is the Holy Spirit, whom the Saviour gave to the Apostles
(...) The true object of this devotion-its
motive - is the infinite Mercy of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
towards fallen man. This is indeed the love of God for mankind, but
only in a wider sense, for it is not the love which delights in perfections,
but a compassionate love aroused by the misery in which man found himself
after his sin.
(...) We see from the
foregoing that devotion to the Divine Mercy is the logical consequence
of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where it existed only in embryo.
It now makes its appearance separately and is not identified with the
other devotion, for its material and formal object is not the same.
Its aim, too, is completely different. It is related to all Three Persons
of the Blessed Trinity, and not-as in the case of devotion to the Sacred
Heart-to the Second Person alone; it is, moreover, better suited to
the spiritual condition of present-day man, who stands in such need
of trust in God. "Jesus, I trust Thee!", and, through Thee,
I trust the Father and the Holy Spirit. (Vol. II, p. 204-205)
Devotion to the Mercy of God - that mercy which
He gives us in the Sacrament
of Penance-is one of those devotions which befit all souls alike. For
the aim of this devotion is to praise the Most Merciful Saviour, not in
any one particular state or mystery, but in His universal Mercy, in which
all mysteries are revealed at their most profound. And although this is
obviously a separate devotion, it contains something which is of general
application. This is expressed in the ejaculatory prayer: "Jesus,
I trust in Thee", sinfulness, and, at the same time, arouses the
virtue of trust - that virtue on which our justification is founded. (Vol.
II, p. 263)
factor in obtaining Gods Mercy is trust.
Trust is the expectation of someones help.
It does not constitute a separate virtue, but is an essential condition
of the virtue of hope, and an integral part of the virtues of fortitude
and generosity. Because trust springs from faith, it strengthens hope
and love, and is, moreover, linked up, in one way or another, with the
moral virtues. It may, therefore, be called the basis on which the theological
virtues unite with the moral. The moral virtues, originally natural,
become supernatural if we practice them with trust in Gods help.
Natural trust-the expectation of human help-is
a great incentive in mens lives. We have only to remember the
sieges of Zbaraz, Chocim and other fortified places, in lyth-century
Poland, in the wars against the Cossacks and Turks, when the besieged
held out heroically against the most shattering attacks of the enemy,
and endured every kind of privation, because they were expecting reinforcements
and liberation. But to expect help from men often leads to disappointment.
Those who trust God, on the other hand, are never disappointed. "Mercy
shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord" (Ps. 31 : 10),
(...) Finally, in His speech of farewell,
delivered in the Cenacle after the Last Supper,
Our Lord, having given His last orders to the Apostles, and foretold
that they would have to endure in this world, for His names sake,
spoke of trust
as the essential condition of perseverance, and of obtaining the help
of Gods Mercy:
"In the world you will have afflictions. But take courage, I have
overcome the world" (John 16 : 33). This was the last utterance
of the Saviour before the Passion,
and was noted down by the beloved Apostle, who wanted to remind all
the faithful, throughout the ages, how necessary is the trust which
the Saviour not only commended, but commanded.
Why does God so strongly urge us to trust?
Because trust is homage to the Divine Mercy. Anyone who expects God
to help him is thereby acknowledging that God is almighty and good,
that He can help us, and wants to do so, and that He is, above all else,
merciful (...) "No one is good but
only God" (Mark 10:18).
We must know God in truth, for a false knowledge of Him chills our relationship
with Him and obstructs the graces of His Mercy.
(...) Our spiritual life depends chiefly
on the concept that we ourselves form of God.
Between God and ourselves, there are certain fundamental relations which
are inherent in our nature as creatures, but there are other relations
which spring from our own attitude to God; and this attitude depends
on our idea of Him. If we form false concepts of the Lord Most High,
our relationship with Him will be wrong, and all our efforts to set
it right will be in vain. If we have a distorted idea of Him, there
are bound to be many gaps and imperfections in our spiritual life. If,
on the other hand, our concept of Him is-as far as is humanly possible-true,
our souls will, quite certainly, grow in holiness and light.
The concept of God is, then, the key to holiness,
for it governs our conduct in relation to God, and Gods attitude
to us. God has adopted us as His children, but, unfortunately, we do
not, in practice, behave like children. The son-ship of God is just
a phrase, and in our actions we fail to show childlike trust in so good
(...) For lack of trust prevents God from lavishing His blessings on
us; it is like a dark cloud impeding the action of the suns rays,
or a dam cutting off ones access to spring water.
(...) Nothing gives such glory to Divine
omnipotence as the fact that God makes those who trust Him omnipotent
also. Yet, if our trust is never to be disappointed, it must have those
characteristics of which the King of Mercy Himself spoke.
(...) In relation to God, our trust should be supernatural, complete,
pure, strong and enduring. Above all, our trust should spring from grace,
and be founded on God.
(...) Relying on God, we must not rely too
much on ourselves, on our own talents, prudence or strength; if we do,
God will withhold His help, and leave us to find out our inadequacy
from bitter experience. In the things of God, we must learn to distrust
ourselves and be persuaded that, of ourselves, we can only harm, or
(...) When we trust in God, we do not rely
on human means alone, for in this world nothing-not even the greatest
strength and riches-will avail unless God Himself supports, strengthens,
comforts, teaches and protects us. We must, indeed, take any measures
that we regard as necessary, but we cannot rely only on these; we must
put our whole trust in God. This trust should be the golden mean between
what is known as Quietism, and over-activity. The advocates of this
excessive activity are in a continual state of turmoil, for, in all
they do, they rely solely on themselves. Trust in God causes us to do
our work conscientiously, down to the smallest detail, but it saves
us from the unrest of those who never allow themselves a breathing-space.
It would, on the other hand, be sheer laziness to leave everything to
God, without trying to do our duty as well as we could.
Trust in God should be strong and enduring,
without doubts or hesitations. Such was the trust of Abraham, who was
ready to offer up his son in sacrifice. And such was the trust of the
martyrs. On the other hand, the Apostles, during the storm, were found
wanting in this virtue, and Our Lord reproached them with the words:
"Why are you fearful, O you of little
faith?" (Matt. 8 : 26).
If we have great trust, we must beware alike
of pusillanimity and presumption. Pusillanimity is the basis of all
temptations, for if we once give way to it, we lose the courage we need
to persevere in the good, and fall headlong into sin. Presumption,
on the other hand, leads us into danger (for instance, the occasions
of sin), with the hope, at the back of our minds, that God will come
to the rescue. This is tempting God, and such tempting usually ends
tragically for the tempter.
In our case, trust should go hand in hand
with fear, the fear that comes from knowing our own misery. Without
this fear trust turns to self-importance and fear without trust - meanness.
Fear with trust becomes humble and brave, and trust with fear becomes
strong and modest. For the sailing boat will sail, wind and the load
which will dip it in the water, are necessary, that it will not capsize.
So that is with us, we need the wind of trust and the load of fear.
"the Lord taketh pleasure in them
that fear him: and in them that hope in his mercy" (Ps. 146 : 11).
Finally, trust should be accompanied by longing-the
desire to see Gods promises fulfilled, and to be united with our
beloved Savior. (...) The longing for God must be in conformity with
His will, it should be humble, not only as regards feeling, but as regards
the will, which should urge us on to unceasing labour and total surrender
to God. For trustful longing, if it is not to be mere delusion, must
be based on sincere penance for our sins. "Mercy
shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord"
(Ps. 31 : 10).
When, in a raging storm, a ship loses its
mast, lines and helm, and the foaming waves drive it on to the rocks,
where it is in danger of being wrecked, the frightened sailors turn
to their last resource-they let down the anchor, to hold the ship fast
and prevent it from being dashed to pieces. This anchor, to us, is trust
in Gods help.
(...) "Blessed be the man that
trusteth in the Lord, and the Lord shall be his confidence. And he shall
be as a tree that is planted by the waters, that spreadeth out its roots
towards moisture: and it shall not fear when the heat cometh. And the
leaf thereof shall be green, and in the time of drought it shall not
be solicitous, neither shall it cease at any time to bring forth fruit"
(Jer. 17 : 7-8).
Such are the fruits of trust, given by the
Holy Spirit. Trust is, above all, homage to Gods Mercy, which,
in exchange, bestows on those who trust the strength and courage they
need to overcome even the most formidable difficulties.
(...) Trust in God drives away all sadness and depression, and fills
the soul with great joy, even when circumstances are at their worst.
(...) Trust makes the miracles because it has the Gods almightiness
to its services.
(...) Trust gives us inner peace, such as the world cannot give. Trust
opens the way
to all the virtues.
According to a legend, they once resolved
to leave this earth, stained as it is by so many sins, and return to
their heavenly country. When they came to the gates of heaven, the doorkeeper
admitted them all, with the exception of trust: trust was excluded,
that the wretched people on earth, surrounded as they were by temptation
and suffering, might not fall into despair. The legend tells us that
trust had to return to earth, and all the other virtues returned with
Above all, trust comforts the dying, who,
in their last moments, remember all the sins
of their lives, and are sometimes driven to despair. Appropriate acts
of trust should, then, be suggested to the dying, for it is not everyone
who, at such a time, can make them for himself. The dying should be
reminded of their true home, now no longer distant, where the King of
Mercy joyfully awaits all who trust in His Mercy. Trust assures us of
a reward after death, as we know from many examples in the lives of
the Saints. We need only think of Dismas, the thief dying on the cross
beside Our Lord, to whom, in his last moments, he turned with trust,
to hear the blessed assurance:
"This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23 : 43).
be the man that trustetb in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose
heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like tamarif in the desert,
and he shall not see when good shall come; but he shall dwell in dryness
in the desert in a salt land, and not inhabited" (Jer. 17 : 5-6).
This is a picture of the contemporary world, which trusts so entirely
in itself, in its own wisdom and strength, and in the inventions which,
instead of bringing it happiness, fill it with fears of self-destruction.
Inventions are undoubtedly a good thing, and in accordance with the
will of God, who said:
"Fill the earth, and subdue it" (Gen. 1 : 28), but
we must not trust wholly to our own reason, forgetting the Creator,
and the honour and trust that are His due.
(...) Mans distrust of God is the result
of a foolish and baseless misunderstanding.
It comes from transferring our own faults and weaknesses to Him, and
attributing to Him what we see in ourselves. We imagine God to be as
changeable and capricious as we are-as stern and gloomy as we are-and
so on. Such faults and behavior are an insult to God, and do us great
harm. Where should we be now, if He who guides our destinies were as
capricious, as vengeful, as quick to take offense, as we sometimes imagine?
Our mistaken concept of God, and our tendency to impute our own shortcomings
to Him, are due to our weakness and sadness, our ceaseless fears and
our inner anxiety-human failings which exist almost everywhere.
Trust, then, may be compared with a chain
hanging from heaven, and to which we attach our souls. Gods hand
draws the chain upward; as it ascends, it carries with it all who hang
on tightly. (...) Let us, then, cling to this chain in time of prayer,
like the blind man of Jericho, who, sitting by the roadside, cried out
with a loud voice:
"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Let us trust
God in all our needs, temporal and eternal-in all our sufferings, dangers
and derelictions. Let us trust Him, even when it seems as though He
Himself has abandoned us; when He withholds His consolations, leaves
our prayers unanswered, crushes us beneath a heavy cross. It is then
that we should trust God most, for this is the time of trial, the testing
time, through which every soul must pass.
Holy Spirit, give
me the grace of unwavering trust when I think of Our Lords merits,
and of fearful trust when I think of my own weakness.
When poverty comes knocking at my door:
JESUS, I TRUST THEE
When sickness lays me low, or injury cripples me:
JESUS, I TRUST THEE
When the world pushes me aside, and pursues me with its hatred:
JESUS, I TRUST THEE
When I am besmirched by calumny, and pierced through by bitterness:
JESUS, I TRUST THEE
When my friends abandon me, and wound me by word and deed:
JESUS, I TRUST THEE
Spirit of love and Mercy, be to me a refuge,
a sweet consolation, a blessed hope,
that in all the most trying circumstances of my life I may never cease
to trust Thee"
(Vol. III, p.189-200).
VIRTUE OF MERCY
DUTY TO CARRY OUT MERCIFUL DEEDS
mercy is a brotherly bondage of people, the vigilant mother, who brings
relieve, saves everyone who suffers. It is an image of God's Providence
because it has an open eye for everyone's needs, but first of all is
an Image of Merciful God, as Our Lord said: "Be
merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6,36).
We should understand, that this virtue is not only
advisable, but it is a duty of every Christian. A lot of people share
a mistaken view that carrying out merciful deeds is only an act of grace
and sacrifice which depends on one's will and good heart. However, the
truth is totally different. The virtue of mercy is not an advice, which
one can apply or give up without a sin, but it is our lawful duty. There
is none who can be justified for not carrying out merciful deeds.
This conclusion comes from Holy Bible, from
voice of our intellect and our brotherhood. The virtue of mercy has
already taken place in Old Testament. In Moses' books we can read:
"There will always be poor people
in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers
and toward the poor and needy in your land." (Dt 15,11).
(...) Even to a greater degree Our
Saviour puts the duty of mercy upon us. Depicting the Judgement Day,
He put the following words in the mouth of the King: "Then
he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Mt
(...) The lack of merciful deeds towards
our neighbours can be the only reason for being rejected by Our Lord.
"For I was hungry and you gave me
nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was
a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did
not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.
They also will answer, Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or
a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help
you? He will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for
one of the least of these, you did not do for me" (Mt 25, 42 -
Following His Words there is no need to prove
that the virtue of mercy is our main duty because Our just Heavenly
Father cannot punish us for what is not our duty.
(...) Numerous verses of Holy Bible tell
us about the "earthly" reward for our merciful deeds towards
our neighbours. "He who is
kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what
he has done" (Pro 19,17).
(...) Even greater rewards for merciful people
promises Jesus Christ: "Give,
and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together
and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure
you use, it will be measured to you"
(...) Reward for the merciful deeds does
not end up on earthly things. The spiritual prize is hundred fold more
precious. This reward, in all is confined to the one word: Forgiveness
and God's grace. It is the greatest goodness, the most precious treasure,
and the most dear pearl which one can find easily by practising the
virtue of Mercy. If one has happened to weaken his faith, let him be
merciful and undoubtedly he will find the lost heavenly light. If one
has not known yet Our Lord's Mercifulness, therefore is not able to
follow him, let him begin with practising virtue of mercy towards one's
neighbours and for sure Our Lord's words will come true: "Blessed
are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Mt 5,7).
(...) Virtue of Mercy brings upon us God's
Grace and Light, washes away our sins leading towards the Sacrament
of Reconciliation, saves our soul from eternal death, as it is stated
in Holy Bible: "Alms are
a worthy offering in the sight of the Most High for all who give them"
(...) In order to receive heavenly reward
for merciful deeds one has to meet some conditions: intentions behind
the deeds should be pure; the deeds should be carried out continuously,
joyfully and should not depend on personal preferences.
(...) It is a great privilege for us
to follow God's steps in carrying out His Merciful deeds
by leading out our brothers and sisters from poverty or healing their
bodies and souls.
(...) What a joy it is for us,
that Our Lord allows us, in such an easy way to pay for our sins and
deserve our eternal reward.
Dr. Fr. Michael Sopocko
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